holiday staying in a family members house

What could possibly go wrong when on holiday staying with family? Do you look forward to greeting your family members to spend some quality time with them or do you pretend you’re not home? Quite a dilemma – but it doesn’t have to be.

Recently, I’ve been reading stories about travellers staying with their relatives or friends while on vacation. It could make for a quite a funny movie!

When visiting my father-in-law you have to add into the mix my sister-in-law’s ex — who she’s still on good enough terms with for him to stay there sometimes — plus my brother-in-law and his two kids. Up to 12 people in a house with only two bathrooms. But really, it’s more like one bathroom for my father-in-law and another bathroom for the other 11 of us.”

“My boyfriend told his mate that he could stay on the couch. We found challenging because he was up a lot in the night watching TV. Plus it was kind of awkward running into him in my bathrobe.”

“I shared a room with my cousin and she snored so loudly that I wanted to hit her with the pillow so I could get some decent sleep. One night I got up, grabbed a blanket and slept on the couch. What a relief to get some sleep!”

“I loved staying with my friend in Paris but her daughter was a nightmare. Constantly needing attention, it was draining keeping her entertained!”

“My sister and her family stayed last month. They made a huge mess in the bathroom and left the towels thrown on the floor. And that was after one night!”

Being a guest

While reading the stories, I laughed and then cringed. You see, during my many years of travelling I have made many friends over the world and met up with most of my relatives that live all over Europe and North America. So many times I have spent a holiday staying in a family member’s house or at friends’ houses (people I have met on previous travels).

So I started to look back on my travels and think if I ever did the same to my family members and friends. I began to wonder if my stay ever irritated them (my hair malts a lot, so on every visit to the bathroom I’m always collecting my hair off the floor before anyone sees it!).

I think I have always been respectful, I hope I was the perfect guest. To any of my family and friends who felt otherwise I take this opportunity to deeply apologise. At least they only had to put up with one person – me!

The Pros to staying with family or friends

I’m so thankful for these generous offers from family and friends to stay at their house because:

  • It helped me save some money on accommodation.
  • Then I had more money to spend on other fun things – like touring and food.
  • Had a more authentic experience as family members and friends often know the best and non-touristy places to go to. I loved it when my friend in Hong Kong took me to small cafe's, away from the tourist trail, to experience the best local foods  Or the time an Italian family included me in their chestnut festival.
  • Spent quality time with my family and friends and made new holiday memories.
  • Have access to a kitchen, thereby saving money once again instead of dining out every night.
  • You learn the culture a lot better when you stay with family or friends rather than at a hotel.

The drawbacks are:

  • You don’t always have alone time.
  • Sometimes your bed is the couch or floor.
  • You get woken up early as family/friends need to get ready to go to work but all you want to do is sleep in.
  • You have to clean up yourself. Remember it’s not a hotel where housekeeping will clean your room and bathroom every day.

Being a guest – tips for a holiday staying with family

holiday staying with family means using the kitchen

Here are 7 tips on how to show gratitude to your hosts:

  1. Offer to cook a meal one evening.
  2. Treat them to a dinner/lunch as thanks for their hospitality.
  3. If they have been including you in family dinners (ie. they are feeding you!), leave little gifts such as wine/beers, fill up the fruit bowl or replenish staples in the fridge.
  4. Always clean up the bathroom after each use.
  5. Do offer to do the dishes. When I visited my friend in London last year, he would be out the door to work before I would wake up. So I would do his dishes before I headed out shopping later. He loved coming home to a clean kitchen every evening.
  6. Sometimes your hosts are so gracious that they won’t accept anything at all in return. In these situations, before I say my final farewell, I leave an envelope on the bed with money or a gift voucher inside. It’s a nice little surprise for them when they do find it plus they can’t give it back once you’re gone!
  7. Always offer to return the hospitality. Give them an open invitation to visit you one day.

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Being a host

What happens when the shoe is on the other foot and you are the host?

Many people will cherish spending time with family or friends they haven’t seen in person for many years. However, they could quite quickly change their mind once the family have arrived.

It might turn into a disaster and you secretly start plotting their early departure. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Consider the following suggestions to turn it into a pleasant experience for all.

  • If family or friends have asked to stay and you say Yes, then be prepared to show them the best time and the best of your city.
  • Don’t be afraid to say No if you genuinely can’t cope with it. There are other options to consider, such as:
    - negotiate a shorter stay
    - help them find accommodation nearby
    - find them free/cheap tourist options for their stay.
  • Before your guests depart their homeland, send them a list of the top 10-20 things to do in your city. It’s easy to get a list from your local tourist office website. Then ask your guests what interests them from that list. Now you’ll have a better idea of how to entertain them once they arrive.
  • My friends in LA get so many visitors as they have friends and family all over the world. They don’t have a lot of spare time so they lend out their second family car. Then the guests can then please themselves!
    I never thought that in two days I would nail navigating the crazy LA freeways. Only missed a turn off twice in two weeks!
  • It’s a short period out of your life, so have a ball. Consider it a holiday for yourself too.

    I was so excited when the first of my European cousins visited me in Aussie land! She only had 7 days in Perth. So I jammed pack her days from morning to night. Somehow I succeeded to cover the best Perth has to offer in one week. I’m sure she went home exhausted. So what do you think happened when I visited her in the Netherlands two years later? She jammed pack my 2 weeks in The Hague and surrounds. We had so much fun being tour guides in our home cities. I even managed to see places in Perth that I’d never been to before.
holiday staying with family and two girls standing in front of a boulder while hiking in a national park

My cousin and I halfway through the Eagle View Walk at John Forrest National Park (near Perth, WA).

  • Pay it forward. When my friends and I were passing through Punta del Este in Brazil, we were pleasantly surprised in two ways. First, I sent my two friends into a supermarket to buy food while I minded the bags outsdie and they came out with a gorgeous Brazilian man! Second, he then invited us to his house and cooked us lunch.

    It turned out that he had travelled to Australia the year before and met many helpful Aussies who offered him meals. So he wanted to repay the wonderful hospitality he’d received by helping Australians visiting his country.

A holiday staying with family is fun

I’ve had overseas family and friends stay with me (5 times) and only had one negative experience. I guess I’ve been lucky but I don’t let it deter me from being a host again. It’s still fun having family and friends visiting from foreign lands!

One thing is for sure, on my next visit to family or friends I will be exceptionally mindful of my actions and always convey my heartfelt gratitude to their wonderful hospitality. I will always love visiting my family and friends all over the world and look forward to the day they visit me – if I’m not on holidays myself of course!

kermit the frog waving from inside an old suitcase

Can you add any other tips for a holiday staying with family? Do you have any funny stories of family holidaying in your house or you staying in a family member’s home?

Have no family members or friends at your next holiday destination? You can always check out !

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About the author

Lisa is a travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.

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